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March 12, 2014

Networks Driving Community Change

If you knew about the statistics lottery for low-income children, you might never look at the future of your community the same way again.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, led by Ralph Smith, senior vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is harnessing the power of networks to move the needle in communities across the country.

As Smith will share during a Wednesday morning, Round D session at the conference — along with Roxanne Joffe, lead strategy consultant with The Patterson Foundation, and Jennifer Torres, community relations manager at University of the Pacific — this networked approach isn’t easy, but it’s driving the potential for systemic change and impact.

1) Understand the Big Picture

Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. But each year, more than 80-percent of low-income children miss this milestone. A networked approach to seeing the “big picture” includes understanding grassroots efforts and how the two tie together to facilitate social change.

2) Constantly strive to iterate

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading focuses on three key areas: school readiness, chronic absence and summer learning. When the campaign launched, Smith said it scaled so quickly that the leadership team felt like it was getting run over by a stampede of enthusiasm.

It takes an agile process of co-creation to help leverage that enthusiasm and turn into a thriving network.

3) Combining technology with human action

There is great individual success among nonprofits working on early learning and other areas that relate to the campaign, but big progress will come from knitting everything together.

The Patterson Foundation aligns with this philosophy of supporting points of intersection. Through its national work with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, The Patterson Foundation is supporting the role of an online community manager and enhancements to an online community platform where leaders in the 140+ communities can connect, learn from each other and advance the goals of the campaign.

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